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Dystopia - Geen Weg Uit Award winner

Dystopia
Geen Weg Uit
by Chris Hawkins at 13 October 2020, 5:39 PM

Bands do evolve over time – for better, such as TESTAMENT, or worse like most of the “Big Four”.  Now, stepping off the soap box, this is an introduction to a Dutch band, from the land of PESTILENCE and ASPHYX where bands seem to truly spread wings over time, DYSTOPIA.  They have been around since 2005 releasing a pair each of full-lengths and EPs prior to their latest LP, “Geen Weg Uit” (in English, “no way out”).  Admittedly, I was unfamiliar with the band prior to this but after a very short bit of it played, I was baffled to realize this band is without a label.  Read on to be enlightened by a band that blends Black Metal with orchestral bombast and an outright organic foray into a warm PROG-ish and ‘70s Metal fusion.  That sounds like quite a bit to unpack, but it does work – well.

Razernij: I” is an opening statement carefully setting the mood by easing things into motion.  The beginning contains a melodic crescendo which contains a bit of Shoegaze vibe in that DEAFHEAVEN sense.  When the guitars really kick in, theirs is a tone more reminiscent of an Orange amp, that swampy vibe, over the more traditional super-saturated Black Metal tone.  As they launch into the Black Metal section after about a minute and a half, it turns out to be a familiar sound though the change at the 2:30 sees a return to that fuzzy tone.  Soon after is the most ambitious part of the song where the guitars engage in a call and response exercise with a regal, stately-sounding brass section.  Two solid decades into this new millennium and it is refreshing to hear bands experiment as such especially in the seminal way the brass reinforces the emphasis on the guitar riffs.  Furthermore, it is a five minute trip through a series of dynamics, moods, and ending on a somber note emphasized by a more serene brass timbre brings things back full circle as well as perfectly sets up the beginning of the following track, “Razernij: II”.

As mentioned, this second track begins on a somber note.  A crystalline clean guitar complimented by keyboards evokes a classic ANATHEMA-like atmosphere.  The similarities, however, end in the following section where the guitars are dirtied up yet still maintain an eerie pensive quality as they lowly rumble underneath the melody reintroducing the brass. Halfway through, the menagerie created by the clean guitar, keyboard accompaniment, and muted trumpet played so lively, expressive, and full of emotion is haunting.  Granted, we all hear music personally through ears built upon our collective experiences, but this section is my favorite part reminding me of a blend of AMORPHISTales From the Thousand Lakes”- “Elegy” era and a Hollywood soundtrack to a film noir.  Perhaps the trumpet is the impetus for that soulful yet mournful element while the rest of the instrumentation is flirting across the room with some latent Prog tendencies.  The following section was a total surprise as the guitars returned to a fuzzy approach blending dissonant chords to really bring out the effect with the introduction of clean vocals.  They vacillate between a very Euro-sounding clean and a tortured Black Metal approach.  Though this is just to illustrate the point and not a die-hard, set-in-stone statement, it can be likened to going back and forth between a singer like Vintersorg for the clean and the maniacal, demonic wail of Attila, two extremes, nonetheless.

For an independent release, there is absolutely no lack of quality in the recording.  In fact, owing to the band’s rather novel approach to Black Metal, a top-notch production is an absolute must.  It is obvious these guys are tone nerds, an observation not meant to be demeaning whatsoever but rather made in lieu of the wide assortment of warm, natural tones they employ from hushed, sparkling cleans to mushy warm crunch, and finally, full-on saturated, organically-derived, juicy, sizzling and scorching high gain that rumbles like a ’65 Mustang,  There is that aforementioned Orange element too which could spell a precarious road for anyone behind the board yet any trepidation is eschewed in favor of an intimate yet bold and fully-voiced orchestral approach to the blended instrumentation.  The end result is a highly dynamic record spanning the softest to most boisterous sections tastefully with a realistic analog feel.  From just the span of the first four tracks, “Razernij: I, II, III, and IV” that varied approach is handled with the utmost care and technical precision.  What shines through this wizard-like production, though, is the quality of the songwriting, a solid basis to be polished in the studio.  Tracks like “Van De Meute Vervreemd: I” with its tranquil, moody beginning giving eventual rise to a spellbinding Black Metal section replete with the magic of brass over top of a psychedelic haze of frantic tremolo-picking illustrate how the early output of both PINK FLOYD and KING CRIMSON alongside an Avant-Garde approach to Black Metal establishes the DYSTOPIA sound.

DYSTOPIA is certainly not the first band to incorporate such myriad oft-disparate elements.  Releases from MAUDLIN OF THE WELL to the work of DEVIN TOWNSEND to ARCTURUS comprise the dimensions of this open-minded approach; however, while there could certainly be other bands to list who pushed the envelope, none sound like DYSTOPIA nor does DYSTOPIA sound like them.  Hearing such rich, textured guitar work via Black Metal-based approach was enlightening as it seems that level of discernment in tone is no longer reserved for Doom bands.  Certainly, some parts such as the final song of the “Van De Meute” trilogy could be interpreted as being Doom-centric but overall, they tend to skirt that label a bit more than the Black Metal tag.  It is an album with immense ambition, brilliantly defined character, and une nouvelle méthode to the genre.  Combine a breath of fresh air, a wind of inspiration, and a tornado of style to begin picturing the dimensions of this band’s sound.  The final, key ingredient is the breadth of emotion present in these tracks.  Nuclear Blast, Season of Mist, Dark Descent, somebody, sign this band!


Songwriting:  9
Originality:  9
Memorability:  10
Production:  9

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Razernij: I
2. Razernij: II
3. Razernij: III
4. Razernij: IV
5. Van De Meute Vervreemd: I
6. Van De Meute Vervreemd: II
7. Van De Meute Vervreemd: III
8. De Dwaas Komt Voor De Redder
Lineup:
Cees de Wit – Drums
Dennis Onsia – Lead Vocals, Guitar
Bob van Deutekom – Bass, Backing Vocals
Rick Jongman – Guitars, Backing Vocals
Thomas Cochrane – Guitars, Trumpet, Trombone, Backing Vocals
Record Label: Independent
     


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